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Close Encounters

By Jim Selman with Shae Hadden

Now that AI has entered the picture, all bets are off. This article is a good place to begin to enter the conversation and move beyond all the positive and negative scenarios.

Photo of a person in virtual reality gear by Barbara Zandoval on Unsplash

Photo by Barbara Zandoval on Unsplash

We’re being inundated by a tsunami of media about generative artificial intelligence. Is it a boon that could unite humanity or a threat to our existence? The one thing people seem to agree on is that AI is a game-changer.

Regardless of any concerns or thoughts we may have about the future, AI is already challenging our beliefs about what’s possible and is advancing at a pace that surpasses the human brain’s capacity to comprehend. All bets are off.

After listening to a presentation made by Tristan Harris and Aza Raskin, the co-founders of the Center for Humane Technology, to a private gathering of technologists in San Francisco on March 9, 2023, I realize there is so much happening that I didn’t even know or consider a year ago. I can barely call myself a conscious beginner on the subject. Simply put, I have been blind.

Now I can confidently admit my ignorance when it comes to artificial intelligence. That admission is a step up from blindness. Once I recognize my ignorance, I am in a position to learn, which I what I am doing now. My approach to learning something totally new is to enter into the larger conversation which, in this case, is emerging.

Perhaps we could think of GenAI as a “close encounter of the third kind”. As in the movie of that name, we know nothing of this alien intelligence.

I’ve been throwing myself into a lot of conversations about artificial intelligence. After spending a couple of months listening to presentations, government inquiries, interviews, podcasts, and participating in plenty of dinner-table talk, I believe everything we hear about the risks and dangers of AI is sobering, but not a reason to panic. Yes, it’s clear that there are several plausible negative scenarios where AI can be used in ways that can undermine or destroy our way of life. However, there are also equally plausible scenarios of how AI can unite humanity and help us to solve many, if not all, of the intractable problems that threaten our way of life, as well as our survival.

The negative and positive scenarios are just scenarios. The future isn’t going to be a function of what the technology can or cannot do. The future is going to be a function of how human beings relate to the technology. That is why it is crucial leaders in every sector engage in serious conversations to co-create a future where human beings and AI can complement each other and co-exist. In those conversations, they would get absolutely clear and aligned on the boundaries, rules, structures, processes, and design principles that will govern the emergence of this technology.

In the coming years, I believe the challenge and the possibility for human beings will be to shift our worldview and expand our consciousness from an egocentric, self-referential and culturally reinforced way of being in the world to a generative, co-creative relationship with our respective ‘realities’. In practical terms, this would involve cultivating the innate human capability to master context, to consciously and continuously transform our relationship with anything and everything that limits our serenity or blocks our freedom of full self-expression, all in service of a commitment to a better future.


© 2024 Jim Selman